BRANDING – Feminist elitism and why it’s not a fatal deficiency, and how feminists can regain credibility as caring about the rest of us

Ally Fogg is having a good conversation on why so many young women and people in general have generally “feminist” beliefs and attitudes – gender equality, self-determination in matters of gender – or beliefs and attitudes that feminists say are feminist, or that they claim as feminist, are uncomfortable with calling themselves feminist.

In the course of the conversation Quiet Riot Girl remarked that feminism has been elitist from the beginning, which by itself imposes enough shortcomings, but then goes on to compound the problem by claiming to be all broad-based and democratic and open to diversity of opinion and then to go on and claim to be the broad solution to gender issues.

There’s really no question or discussion to be had about the elitism of early feminism. Just look at the way the suffragettes are dressed in all those photographs. It is impossible to any manual labor at all dressed that way, and this was in an age when anyone who couldn’t afford servants – the 99% – took all day to the laundry for a week, first firing the stove to heat the water, then facing the back-breaking labor of hand washing, wringing and hanging…. And then there was the work of cooking – more firing the stove, plucking the bird if you could afford one……

I answered that it’s the whole vanguard party model. And it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If the elites don’t do this work, who else has the time or resources to do it?

Have you ever heard this story about Zhou Enlai? You remember Zhou Enlai, the one people shed actual tears for?

Once Khruschev was visiting Beijing. At the reception he got loud and boastful – “This is the difference between our country and yours: I was born poor and now I am running the country, while you were born rich and you are still running the country”. And indeed, Zhou Enlai was from a very privileged background.

Zhou Enlai considered for a moment. “That’s very true, but there is this difference: We are both traitors to our classes.”

So elitism doesn’t have to doom a movement, but those elites have to transcend their elitism and their focus on their own issues. (See also Womanism and critiques of white feminism). It’s hard, because selfishness is how their class managed to climb over everyone else and become elites.

Elitism doesn’t have to doom a movement – all the elites have to do is turn on their class, in this case privileged Western white women, to convince us they care about us. They have to help the MRM in the process of disassembling thier female privilege, in other words, building real gender equality. Since they routinely claim that equality between the genders is where their hearts are already, what “real feminism” is, it should be no big deal.

Quiet Riot Girl doubted it would happen because it would require feminists to actually give a shit about men. Nevva hoppen, as they say.

I answered that I agreed, it won’t happen, and here it is another failure to transcend. It is a failure to transcend their traditional enculturation. Male disposability is a pillar of traditional, “patriarchal society”. You simply cannot get the model to work without it.

The answer is for feminists to go deeper into their feminist rejection of traditionalism, even the traditionalism that has crept into feminism. So good-bye to the demonization of male sexuality, which is so Victorian – so good-bye to “rape culture” and “testosterone poisoning” and the penis as weapon imagery; good-bye to male hyperagency – good-bye “patriarchy” and “male privilege” and “male dominance” and female victimhood.

In other words the answer for feminists is to perfect and complete their feminism.

It will be a hard purge and I for one can hardly wait for the show trials.

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  • http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/ DaisyDeadhead

    Enjoyed the post, Gingko. I agree that something started by the elites (so was reading) can be good… and in fact, I am instantly suspicious when they try to keep it away from the rest of us. 😉

  • dungone

    why so many young women and people in general have generally feminist beliefs and attitudes

    The majority of what people have a broad consensus on are ideas that aren’t particular to feminism, so it’s really more like feminists happen to share a couple of mainstream ideas with everyone else. Whether you look at it in terms of feminism going deeper by dropping their numerous boogeymen is a matter of perspective. It’s difficult for me to see a move towards the mainstream as going “deeper”. It’d be like asking the KKK to get closer to the core of their ideals by getting rid of the bigotry. I get it – everyone’s got their own recipe for stone soup.

    But let’s ask ourselves what we’d really have left in feminism if they got rid of all of the anti-male concepts in their worldview? I’d say it would just be indistinguishable from Marxism at that point. I still wouldn’t buy into it and I don’t think that most other people would, either.

  • Sherlock

    I am curious what do the people who runs this site and the people who comment here often believe is actually possible. It seems to me you all would love for there to be no biological gender differences and to make everything equal in terms of disposability, responsibility, ability to express anger and have it received with the same amount of respect etc. etc. IMO none of that is achievable because of biology. You can get some decent results in this direction but at the end of the day biology will betray such vision. A high testosterone man and a high estrogen woman will always behave as almost exact opposites. It is utterly implausible that there will ever be as many stay at home dads as stay at home women for example. ANd then there is the factor of attraction. Do any of you honestly believe that these can be reprogrammed to the degree that a female CEO will find a hot, feminine guy, with little education, that wants to be a stay at home dad to be highly sexually desirable and maintain that desire long term? Do any of you think low status men will find high status women to be more attractive than somewhat better looking low status women?

    And if you don`t think everything can be rewired according to such ideals then what do you actually think can and should be done?

  • Ginkgo

    “The majority of what people have a broad consensus on are ideas that aren’t particular to feminism, so it’s really more like feminists happen to share a couple of mainstream ideas with everyone else.”

    Yeah. That was awkward to word the first time through and I am going to go in and re-work that.

    Sherlock, hi. Comment coming.

  • dungone

    @Sherlock, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. The one with all of the strawmen in it. Please provide some examples from this blog and the comments that you feel are representative of the points of view here and that you find problematic. Otherwise I’m afraid that I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • Ginkgo

    “I am curious what do the people who runs this site and the people who comment here often believe is actually possible. It seems to me you all would love for there to be no biological gender differences”

    I don’t know where you got that impression because we certainly did not give it. A trans woman is born female and no amount of society trying to socialize her as a boy is going to make a man of her. And gay people are born gay and the idea that that is socially constructed is or is some kind of personal choice is superstitious trash.

    “and to make everything equal in terms of disposability, responsibility, ability to express anger and have it received with the same amount of respect etc. etc. ”

    Let’s take disposability to beign with. Disposability for the good of the family, the nation or whatever, is the mark of adulthood. It has nothing to do with being male or female. And please, women are not less disposable because they give birth simply because there is an endless supply of women. The supply is so endless that the US put a law in place, IMBRA, to staunch the flow. They are less disposable only if you are talking about the finite number of women within your own family, which is to say, fucking your daughters or nieces or sisters. So no.

    Responsibility – This is vague, but if you mean equal responsibility before the law, that’s just a precondition for a decent society. A woman rapist should hang right alongside a man rapist.

    “IMO none of that is achievable because of biology.”

    The biology is what makes for the very wide range of variations on those points within genders. There are women who feel and show less emotion than some men, and it has nothing to do with how much hair either one happens to have on thier chests.

    “ANd then there is the factor of attraction. Do any of you honestly believe that these can be reprogrammed to the degree that a female CEO will find a hot, feminine guy, with little education, that wants to be a stay at home dad to be highly sexually desirable and maintain that desire long term?”

    Yeah, let’s look at this one. You seem to be implying marriage. Why? Female CEOs are as much of a disaster as marriage material as male CEOs are – they can’t get where they get to without being cutthroat narcissists. If they are anything else they lose out. So no self-respecting man is going to marry one, and the women who do are really just willing to be contract prostitutes. Most men aren’t trained up to do that.

    As for being attracted to younger hot men, that is exactly the kind of escorts female CEOs and other high stutus do order in.

  • Jupp

    I don’t trust elitist people, it is even worse for elitist people interested in social justice. These people often (of course there are exceptions like Alexis de Tocqueville) want to use the power they have for “the good” (see for example laws that push back against the oppression of women) and they can’t know what is “good”, if it even exists.
    Politically the biggest positive steps have been taken through the restriction and division of power.

  • Adiabat

    “In other words the answer for feminists is to perfect and complete their feminism.”

    This would solve so many problems. However that thread on Ally’s blog highlights that the biggest reason that people don’t call themselves feminist is because of feminist theory and ideology. Personally I think the roots go so deep that feminism can never shed it.

    I particularly liked Jamie Potter’s mentioning of ‘The Vacuity of Postmodern Methodology’; it’s a must read for everyone who talks to feminists. I read it a while back and unfortunately it’s behind a paywall, but what appears to be an edited version is available here: web2.uwindsor.ca/faculty/arts/philosophy/ILat25/edited_Shackel.doc

    Sherlock: Maybe you’re right. The truth is we just don’t know just how much is biology and how much is environment.

    What we do know is that people who wish to take on roles that traditionally belong to the opposite gender *exist*. Even if biology turns out to be so strong an effect that the total number of these people end up being relatively few, the fact that they exist at all means that they should be free to pursue whatever life they want, and their gender shouldn’t be a reason for others to prevent or discourage them from doing that. I don’t care about equality of outcome, but I think equality of opportunity is important.

  • Ginkgo

    Jupp, I love your whole comment.

    “I don’t trust elitist people, it is even worse for elitist people interested in social justice. ”

    These people can’t be trusted. they cna only be useful., at best.

    “These people often (of course there are exceptions like Alexis de Tocqueville) want to use the power they have for “the good” (see for example laws that push back against the oppression of women) and they can’t know what is “good”, if it even exists.”

    A couple of things. First is that utterly selfless do-gooders are never selfless, ecause their do-gooding usually serves some ego need of theirs. the second problem is that serving that ego need often outweighs whatever the effect on the target (and I do mean target) may be, good or bad. So it’s a form of instrumentalization of that target. oh, and a thrird thing – the best scenario for helping someone is win-win, where you derive some benefit, some clean, obvious and healthy benefitr, not just “feeling good about oyurself” along with whoever you are trying to benefit.

    “Politically the biggest positive steps have been taken through the restriction and division of power.”

    Yes but the problem is that it generally takes a lot ot power to restrict power.

  • Ginkgo

    adaibat, I liked that whole thread over there. People were really trying to have an honest dialog.

    Vacuity is a good way to describe oost-modeernism, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. the minute I saw that title, I thought of the doctrine of sunyata in Buddhism, and how some Christian thinkers are applying that and other Budhist forms of ananlysis to problems and paradoxes in Christian thought, and finding that a lot of these suppossed probelms simply evaporate because they were never anything but artifcats of Greek philosophical categories and had nothing to do with actual Christianinty. so somethimes the vacuity results in better accuracy.

    Biology – if we are going to talk biology, then let’s agree form the beginning to be emprical, like biologists have to be to be taken seriously. so whe it comes ot sexes that menas no more mental constructs like “there are two sexes” are going to be allowed to obscure the fatc that most about half to us are XY, about half XX, and a certain percentage are XXY and YYX and some a mosaic of all four. Neurology may well play a huge role in gender identity – I certainly think it does. But again, let’s be serious about this and look at what the physical research actually tells us rather than wallowing in our cherished beliefs.

  • http://danipettas.com Dani Pettas

    I liked “failure to transcend their traditional enculturation.”

  • TMG

    Feminists and other gynocentrists are never going to change, on a wide scale, until the discomfort of changing is less than the discomfort of staying the same. And considering that several multibillion dollar industries, higher education, government, the US’s two major political parties, and religion have all dedicated themselves to making women comfortable, it’s just never going to happen.

    That’s not to say there won’t be a few who are willing to change.

  • Ginkgo

    “I liked “failure to transcend their traditional enculturation.”

    Dani, I am finding myself paying a lot of attention to agency as a linguistic matter, looking at the way it is handled across various languages. It’s pretty covert in English actually, although agency is at the heart of what you are doing in passivization. Anyway.

    Anyway I was looking for a way to say that someone should have done something to overcome the attitudes they condemn and yet displayed.

    TMG, welcome!

    You sum it up in one paragraph. There is too much benefit, poisoned or not – short-term, tactical – benefit to the various forms in this culture – for many women to give them up except out of simple sense of justice and empathy for the men in their lives.

    We’ll see how that goes. As I see it the whole structure of female depends on apexual male patronage – the “Daddy’s Little Girl” – so if the control of apexual males weakens, we may see some progress.

  • TMG

    “As I see it the whole structure of female depends on apexual male patronage – the “Daddy’s Little Girl” – so if the control of apexual males weakens, we may see some progress.”

    Perhaps, but in the meantime, authoritarian Big Sisters are entrenching themselves in power with the help of male chivalrists. So if male enabling falls by the wayside, Big Sister will be there to pick up the slack.

  • Ginkgo

    Big Ssiter is powerless without Daddy. Look at Big Sister’s tactics. They all depend on Daddy doing the dirty work of enforcement.